The highly anticipated new permanent home of the Pilot Competence Center is open for business. The facility is part of an educational expansion of the Experimental Aircraft Association museum.
The first floor has classroom space and now a farm of permanent Redbird LD advanced aeronautical training devices and a Redbird crosswind trainer.
The PPC is a joint venture of the Society of the Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE) and the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) and has been a staple of AirVenture for the better part of a decade. At the center, certified flight instructors volunteer their time and expertise to guide pilots through a series of online scenarios. Emphasis is placed on developing good decision-making skills and procedures.
New location, new experience, everything is done by volunteers
In years past, the CPP was located in a tent halfway where there was a lot of walk-in traffic. People wandered in or over the next few years, signed up, and received text message reminders about their appointment.
This year, the PPC offers a more immersive experience where guests can attend lectures and participate in clinics and exercises in simulators with “round dial” analog instruments or a G1000 cockpit.
When customers arrive, they are greeted by John Morgan Jr., a multi-year PPC veteran who, along with his team, gets customers where they need to be. John’s father, John Sr., is the recognized master of the Redbird Crosswind Simulator. The rest of the simulation teaching is facilitated by a group of volunteer CFIs, who have spent several hours reviewing the lesson plans for each scenario.
According to Nate Weinsaft, Director of PPC and Volunteer CFI Operations, “This year we have 12 simulators in operation, 11 for customers and one for CFI training. Customers are divided into three groups, A, B and C.
“Each group attends two breakout sessions on the topic taught that day. Some may first enter the simulator or chat first. Simulation sessions and breakout sessions are designed to build on each other.
On Monday, George Smith of Villa Park, Ill., flew a scenario that had him in a C172 that lost power shortly after takeoff and after leaving the circuit. Under the watchful eye of five-year PPC veteran Larry Jarkey of Frederick, Maryland, Smith got the plane back on the ground, not on the airport as he wanted, but on a virtual route. A dialogue ensued about other choices Smith could have made.
One of the things participants comment on is that in a simulator you need to keep your situational awareness because unlike in the airplane the instructor can knock the engine down with the press of a key – he doesn’t have step to reach through the cockpit and very obviously pull the throttle at idle. (Pro tip: When the engine in the real plane loses power, the throttle stick usually stays down.)
The PPC is open all week during EAA AirVenture and will feature different scenarios each day.